Lives of the fellows

Paul Harmer Sandifer

b.25 April 1908 d.29 December 1964
DPM Eng(1937) MRCS LRCP(1934) MRCP(1936) FRCP(1950)

Paul Sandifer, son of Dr Henry Stephen Sandifer, M.D., a Kensington general practitioner, and of Evelyn Lee, was educated at Mill Hill School. His medical school was the Middlesex Hospital, where he excelled himself in athletics, being at one time victor ludorum as well as captain of the Rugby football team. After qualification he served at the Middlesex Hospital as house physician to Dr Douglas MacAlpine in the neurological department, to Sir Alan Moncrieff in the department of paediatrics, and to Sir Robert Young and Dr G. E. Beaumont. At the Brompton Hospital in 1935 he became house physician to Dr Beaumont and Dr Clifford Hoyle. He returned to the Middlesex Hospital in 1936 as casualty medical officer. The following year he held a residency at the Maudsley Hospital, which helped him to attain the diploma of psychological medicine. With this impressive clinical background he went to the National Hospital, Queen Square, where, up to the outbreak of the War, he served first as house physician, and later as senior resident medical officer.

During the Second World War he was appointed initially neurologist to Sector 5 of the Emergency Medical Service. He then entered the Royal Air Force as a neuropsychiatrist, and rose to the rank of wing commander. He continued as civilian consultant in neuropsychiatry in the R.A.F, from 1946 until 1951. In 1946 he was appointed assistant physician to the Maida Vale Hospital for Nervous Disorders, and also to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. Two years later he became neurologist to the Mount Vernon Hospital and Radium Institute. From 1948 until 1953 he was also neurologist to the Oxford Regional Hospital Board.

But it is as the pioneer of British paediatric neurology that Paul Sandifer will be most vividly and affectionately remembered. Although a few neurologists in this country had at an earlier date evinced some special interest in the nervous disorders occurring in children—notably F. E. Batten, James Taylor and W. G. Wyllie— there were no recognised and established paediatric neurologists in the North American meaning of the term. When in 1953 the Board of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, created a department of neurology, Paul Sandifer was the obvious choice. This was his greatest hour in the professional sense, for he threw himself into this new sphere of activity with characteristic enthusiasm. His previous training under Moncrieff proved invaluable, for he had a conspicuous ability to understand the sick child and command its trust and affection.

His many hours of hospital service, particularly at Great Ormond Street, involved an exhaustive but gentle study of his patients, followed by the writing of most conscientious and detailed reports or correspondence. Patients and staff were intrigued by his elegance and youthful charm. His arresting manner of teaching, at times so informal in terminology as to be startling, delighted his students. Such an introduction to the manifold and obscure nervous disorders of childhood made him a pioneer within a terra parve cognita.

For years he was intrigued by the diverse and progressive cerebral syndromes of infancy and early childhood, including, for example, subacute sclerosing encephalitis. Perhaps his principal interest lay in an attempt to unravel the mystique of such untidy syndromes as the ‘floppy’ infant and the ‘spastic’ child. Sandifer firmly held that the diplegias of childhood were essentially problems of paediatric neurology. Unfortunately he contributed little to contemporary literature; his premature death left unfinished his projected monograph* on paediatric neurology, so that his many original ideas have perforce been transmitted merely by the recollection of his clinical lectures and demonstrations.

His interests outside medicine ranged from travel in out of the way regions, the ballet, musical appreciation and haute cuisine, to indoor gardening and fast cars.

In 1939 he married Dr Sheila Anderson, daughter of Herbert Anderson, J.P.; she was anaesthetist to Great Ormond Street. They had no children.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1965, 1, 131 (p); Develop. Med. Child Neurol., 1965, 7, 93-4; Lancet, 1965, 1, 113 (p); Times, 9 Jan. 1965.]
‡Published posthumously as Neurology in orthopaedics (1967).

(Volume V, page 364)

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